The same reality has hit me several times this year.
On Friday, leading up to this column, my last for the California Aggie, the reality hit me harder than ever.
Maybe it was seeing UC Davis in a playoff game at Stanford’s state-of-the-art baseball facility. Maybe it was the four-run seventh that erased a 2-0 deficit. Maybe it was how loud the Aggie fans were and how quiet the Cardinal crowd became when senior ace Eddie Gamboa threw the last of his 127 pitches – a swinging strikeout that finished off his four-hit complete game masterpiece.
Whatever it was that caused it, the reality struck me again: UC Davis’ Division I debut this year has truly been something special.
Some students have taken notice.
Everyone who camped out for the women’s basketball game in March against UC Riverside – they’ve seen it. Everyone who traveled to Stanford this weekend – they understand.
But the reality of how amazing this year has been in UC Davis athletics isn’t common knowledge on this campus just yet. Not even after all that happened.
In the fall, men’s soccer became the school’s first team to qualify for the NCAA Division I Tournament. The men’s water polo team went undefeated in regular season conference play, setting a program mark for wins.
In the winter, the women’s basketball team earned an automatic bid to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament. The women’s gymnastics team brought home its first ever Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title.
In the spring, the women’s water polo team had its greatest season in program history, finishing fourth in the nation. The women’s golf team appeared at the NCAA Championships in just the program’s third year of existence, finishing 21st in the country.
And the baseball team, after being picked in the coaches’ poll to finish last in the ultra-competitive Big West Conference, was one of four Big West teams to qualify for the NCAA Division I West Region Championships.
For UC Davis to have accomplished so much so soon was borderline legendary.
Anyone who missed it, yeah, you blew it. But you’re lucky. Next year can be even better.
The lights are up at Aggie Stadium, making it the place to be for five Saturday nights this upcoming football season.
Most of the school’s teams will see significant improvement, including the two most popular spectator sports, football and men’s basketball.
The future of UC Davis is so bright, I had to sit down with athletic director Greg Warzecka last week to discuss it. Our conversation only affirmed my optimism.
UC Davis has 26 sports right now, and that number, he said, has the potential to turn into 27.
“We go through a process every three to five years that looks at our program, any adjustments that need to be made, especially of adding more varsity opportunities to women,” Warzecka said. “We’re in the stages of looking at a lot of information and are gauging the interest at the club level of adding a women’s sport.”
If that doesn’t get people excited, I know of a possible football opponent in two years that might.
“We’re hopeful for a game against Cal in 2010,” Warzecka said. “I don’t think it’s any secret that we’re communicating with them.”
It’s pretty clear that a new age has come here at UC Davis, and it’s time for students to embrace reality.
The days of not following sports on this campus are over. Student-athletes are too good. Teams are too strong. Excuses are too few.
Enjoy your summer, everybody, but be ready to return in the fall in full force.
UC Davis has arrived, and now it’s your turn.
MICHAEL GEHLKEN is happily handing down the reigns of sports editor and columnist to Adam Loberstein. Send loads of hate mail to him all year long at email@example.com.